Cooper's 'Dirty Diamonds' Have Heirloom Shine

Alice Cooper is taking his Dirty Diamonds tour to the world, supporting a new New West release of the same name that represents a real return to Detroit rock form.

Alice Cooper is taking his Dirty Diamonds tour to the world, supporting a new New West release of the same name that represents a real return to Detroit rock form.

The vibe of "Dirty Diamonds" recalls Cooper's classic 1971 album "Killer," which include such gems as "Be My Lover", "Desperado" (not to be confused with the Eagles' song of the same name) and "Dead Babies."

"The new album was pretty much going back to that era," Cooper tells "The last three albums [I did] were all pretty modern, industrial kind of Alice rock albums, big story albums, [with] apocalyptic, end of the world things going on, real heavy story lines."

After those three albums and tours, Cooper says he wanted to go back to a "live-in-the-studio" sound, with no overdubs. "I was thinking let's not spend a lot of time on production, let's spend our time writing the song and performing the song, rather than layering it," Cooper explains. "We actually did the album in about 15 days. We went in the studio, wrote the song in the morning, took a lunch break, and then recorded it that evening."

Dirty Diamond cuts like "Perfect" fit nicely alongside early gems like "Be My Lover" in the Cooper canon. "When ['Perfect'] came along, we were worried that it was a little light, and I said, 'you know what, in my early albums we had songs like that, songs with a little Beatles flavor to them," Cooper says. "As long as the lyric and the storyline and Alice's attitude are right, it can be like that. 'Be My Lover' was not a heavy song. I don't mind a little glam in Alice Cooper, because we were at the beginning of glam. We were pre-Bowie when it came to glam."

Cooper says many of his main influences, then and now, were cinematic. "When I first fashioned 'Desperado' I was thinking of Robert Vaughn's character in the 'Magnificent Seven'," he says. "He was the gunslinger that was lightning fast, the guy who could kill you at any second. On top of that, he was kind of a Jim Morrison character. He had that black suit on with a little white lace on the sleeves, which made him like the gentleman gambler that could blow your brains out."

Cooper says what's old in rock is now new again. "I've been listening to a lot of cutting edge bands right now -- White Stripes, the Vines, the Strokes, Jet -- and every single one of these bands are retro bands. They're all garage bands, 1968 Detroit garage bands. And I'm right at home with that because that's where I lived in 1968. We were doing shows with the Stooges and the MC5 back then."

Cooper's 28-song setlist on the tour is light on ballads, as is the new record. "I always believe you have to put one ballad on an album," Cooper maintains. "You're supposed to break the girl's heart at least once on the album."

The current tour includes such traditional Cooper set-pieces as guillotines, strait jackets and "female vampire whip dances," but he says perception has always been more over-the-top than reality for the shock-rocker.

"If you asked 10 people in 1975 to go to an Alice Cooper show and do a two-page report on what they saw, you'd get 10 different shows," he says. "People saw things that weren't there. People say 'when you threw the chicken out' and 'when the snake came out' and I went 'we didn't use the snake tonight.' We haven't used the chicken since 1967."

Cooper shows offer sensory overload, he says. "When you've bombard an audience with images —- there's crutches, there's guillotines, there's strait jackets, there's manikins that come to life, there's garbage cans, there's swords, money, jewelry thrown in the audience -— at the end of the show they'll tell you the most amazing story you've ever heard. And I'll think about half of that really happened."

Over the weekend, Cooper wrapped a European tour with a show in Iceland. A U.S. run, during which he will share stages on many occasions with Cheap Trick, opens Aug. 20 at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. A Canadian stint is on the books for October, followed by November U.K. dates.